If there is one thing about marketing that I can appreciate, it’s good advertising. When done right the consumer (or client) see value in buying the specific product or obtaining a specific service.
The person, or group of people, who came up with the concept of rewarding customers for their loyalty understood something about the human psyche. So did the people who thought to attract customers to their stores with gift vouchers. The gifting of gift vouchers, or gift cards, as birthday or special occasion presents really took off in recent years as far as I can tell. A voucher may seem like a less “personal” kind of present – to those critical of such things – than something else chosen from a shelf, but I’m sure it isn’t less appreciated by the person who receives it.
I think it is unfortunate though that this type of thing can also be misused at times. Let me explain why I feel that there are people in our world who think consumers are like fish in a pond.
Before I understood the score, I saw no harm in helping that very friendly person who would cold call me, with a pitch about doing research for a new company entering the market in the computer consumables field.
The person who calls explains that it places you under no obligation, that they only want to determine which products to focus on. And you think to yourself – in the land of consumers competition is always beneficial, so what harm can there be in assisting a start-up company, after all? Warning: they just piqued your interest!
A few months later they call you back, thanking you sincerely for helping them with the survey. To show their appreciation the directors/management/owners of this company would like to send you a gift voucher to a choice of any one of three or four chain stores. Hey, you might think to yourself, that is pretty cool of them for only a few minutes of my time. Warning: they just dangled the bait in front of your nose!
As soon as you make your choice they see it as a willingness on your part to do business with them. Before you can say “Thank you, goodbye” the person on the other end takes it a step further and offer you the opportunity to buy their product at a specially reduced introductory price, to evaluate it. After that, if you agree, you’re in it for the duration. Danger: Strike! That is the hook disguised in the bait!
Over the years I have received quite a few of these calls, and yes, I’ll admit to being a sucker more than once. The company who approached me last year was the worst yet and has a policy I have never heard of before. From my dealings with them I imagine it goes something like this:
We, the company, are always right. We do not believe in customer service. When you agree to our introductory offer you become a hostage for life to an agreement that we have the right to change as we see fit in regards the number of goods supplied and the terms. In the event that you insist on cancelling the agreement you will have to buy your release at the totally ridiculous amount we see fit to charge. We do not believe in accepting goods for return and crediting your account. You are not allowed to address complaints to anyone other than the person who handles your account. . .
1 April 2011. The day when the new Consumer Protection Act of South Africa came into effect. A good day, indeed because this law promise to better protect consumers. But for the Act to actually be of value we need to be aware of our rights within it. For those of us who don’t want to wade knee-deep into the law itself, the NCF (National Consumer Forum) provides a link to the informational guide that was published by the Department of Trade and Industry here.